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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 14:49 GMT
Musical is reborn in siege theatre
Nord-Ost musical on stage
The musical has a military setting
The Moscow theatre where more than 170 people died during a siege by Chechen rebels has reopened for the first time since the tragedy.

A celebrity audience, including the US ambassador and the city's mayor, were in the audience at the Dubrovka Theatre for a restaging of the musical Nord-Ost, which was being performed when the terrorists struck in October.

Georgy Vasilyev
Vasilyev found the auditorium much changed
Nord-Ost's producer and co-writer, Georgy Vasilyev, himself a hostage, had always vowed the show would go on despite 18 cast and crew members being killed.

There was a moment of silence in memory of the victims before the performance began.

Nearly 130 hostages - and all 41 Chechen rebels - died when special forces used gas to storm the building bringing to an end the four-day siege.

There were other former hostages in the audience, Olga Fitenko.

"Of course, it is hard for me psychologically to enter this room again, but I am not afraid," she said.

Refurbished

Moscow's city government gave $2.5m to repair the Dubrovka Theatre which now has a high-tech security system.

Special police with sniffer dogs inspected the theatre before the gala opening, which came after a press night on Friday.

Alexander and Lisa Vershbow
US ambassador Alexander Vershbow and wife Lisa were in the audience
The theatre's curtains, upholstery and even seat numbers had been changed.

"As a former hostage I brought my parents here to show them the place I was sitting when they let the gas in. You know, I couldn't find that seat," said Mr Vasilyev.

"Practically nothing in this auditorium reminds one of those hours."

He had originally said he did not want Nord-Ost to be staged at the same theatre, saying it would "remain cursed".

"We want very much to have the feeling of joy back in our theatre", said artistic director Alexei Ivashchemko.

"We are here to show that terrorists cannot win," said the American ambassador, Alexander Vershbow.

Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said the performance provoked mixed emotions.

"On the one hand, it is the grief of loss. On the other hand, I feel proud of our people who have proved once again that they are stronger than terrorism", the mayor said.

The revival itself cost R23m ($720,000), which was raised from local and central government, as well as private contributions.

Nord-Ost, based on the 1944 novel "Two Captains" by Veniamin Kaverin, is a story of love and loyalty set in the years leading up to World War Two and the Siege of Leningrad.

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The BBC's Steve Rosenberg
"The memory of what happened put no one off coming"

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30 Oct 02 | Entertainment
16 Dec 02 | Europe
24 Dec 02 | Europe
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